The legislative Interim Finance Committee approved more than $3 million to add both regular and forensic mental health hospital beds.
The money will renovate the old Stein Hospital on the Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services campus, adding 42 forensic beds for mentally ill criminal defendants and 16 civil beds for regular patients to the 190 beds already operating in the Rawson-Neal hospital.
That, in turn, will take a lost of the pressure off the state’s existing hospital for the mentally ill offenders, Lakes Crossing in Sparks, which gets about two-thirds of its patients from the Las Vegas area.
But Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said the expansion won’t fix the problem immediately because it won’t be open for patients until midway through 2015 or later. He said the backlog of patients waiting for a bed in southern Nevada hospital emergency rooms, currently at 89 people, won’t disappear this year.
He told lawmakers that, for the short term, a 10-bed forensic expansion at Lakes Crossing will be open for business in November as will a 22-bed civil expansion in Southern Nevada.
Health Division Administrator Richard Whitley said they also are working on the issue of housing for these people. Much of the problem is the lack of available housing such as supported living or group homes.
“A lot of people don’t want those types of facilities in their neighborhoods,” he said. “Although legally people who are mentally ill or disabled can live anywhere, there is pushback.”
Conceding there has been a lot of negative publicity about some of the psychiatric hospitals in his department and their problems, Willden said fixing the situation is “job one.”
“We understand the seriousness of the issues and the scrutiny we’re under,” he said.